The final series is nearing its conclusion in Austria, with just one day to go before the top ten competitors in each fleet go forward to the decisive Medal Races this Saturday.
Strong performances in the Laser, both 470 events and the Hobie Tiger mean that Australia is right back in the running for the King's Trophy, awarded to the best performing nation at the World Sailing Games. France still just have the edge though, and lie one point clear of at the top of the standings with two days of racing to go. With the final series now well past their halfway mark, things are still incredibly tight at the top, with the Women's RS:X fleet seeing a lead of more than ten points and five of the leaders only two points or less ahead.
Today saw a variety of conditions around Lake Neusiedl, with tricky winds meaning the trend across the fleets is towards a high scoring series, where consistency looks likely to be the key word.
After being battered by the wind and the rain yesterday, the RS:X windsurfers were faced with a completely different set of challenges today. After an hour and a half long wait on the water for the predicted breeze to materialize, just before 1230 the warning signal for the men sounded and racing got underway in a southerly breeze of five to seven knots.
The pin end was favoured at the start with overall leader Maksym OBEREMKO (UKR) leading off to the left in pumping conditions. However the light conditions were ideal for the smaller frame of 2005 Volvo Youth Sailing ISAF World Champion Lukasz GRODZICKI (POL) and at second windward mark he rounded just ahead of OBEREMKO. GRODZICKI held on during the downwind to take the bullet and by far his best result of the series so far, whilst Ricardo SANTOS (BRA) passed OBEREMKO to take second and Tom ASHLEY (NZL) caught a gust downwind to gain almost ten places and take third ahead of the Ukrainian.
|Quibin CHEN had a great
day to take control in the
Women's RS:X fleet
Whilst GRODZICKI was the star in the men's fleet today, Qiubin CHEN (CHN) was the undoubted number one in the women's. Lying second overall last night, she immediately seized the opportunity given her by overall leader Olga MASLIVETS (UKR), when the Ukrainian went OCS in the day's opening race. Playing the left of the course from the start, CHEN already had a 20 second lead by the first mark and was never looked like surrendering the lead from then on. Marta BIALECKA (POL) followed her in second place with Japan's Yasuko KOSUGE third. CHEN again went left for the race six start, but this time the right seemed favoured and Flavia TARTAGLINI (ITA) rounded the top mark first, with CHEN back in fourth. TARTAGLINI held on for victory, whilst CHEN fought her way to second and a 16 point overall lead, with Lee KORZITS (ISR) third.
CHEN broke onto the windsurfing scene this year after winning at Sail Melbourne. She puts her success down to a simple formula - 'training' - adding that Yin JIAN's (CHN) Olympic silver medal in Athens has been a major inspiration.
Behind CHEN in the overall standings is MASLIVETS, only dropping one place despite her OCS and a 13th in race six. 2005 Volvo Youth Sailing ISAF World Champion Blanca MANCHON (ESP) lies third overall.
|The Aussies remain well out
front in the Hobie
In the women's Hobie 16 fleet overnight leaders Belinda HAYWARD and Kim WILKINSON-DAVIES (RSA) made a tactically mistake on the first leg which cost them 13 positions at the first mark. They recovered somewhat to sail into seventh place. Meanwhile Hobie 16 Women's World Champion Marie DUVIGNAC and Pauline THEVENOT (FRA) powered away for another win. In the second race HAYWARD and WILKINSON-DAVIES fought back and then sailed away from the fleet to win and still keep the gold jersey. Kerstin WICHARDT and Anja HAFKE (GER) continued their consistent form and lie second overall.
No change at the top in the Laser fleet, with the dominant force from yesterday, Thomas LE BRETON (FRA), putting in an equally convincing performance today, placing 2,8.
Despite finding the conditions shifty today Tom SLINGSBY (AUS) said 'everything went smoothly.' It certainly did, as SLINGSBY upped his game to place 3,1 and eject team mate Brendan CASEY (AUS) from the silver medal spot. SLINGSBY now sits just one point behind LE BRETON. CASEY 's fall today came as he found himself at the back of the fleet twice in a row, posting 34,36, to plummet down into eighth overall.
The discard which came in after race four, puts LE BRETON and SLINGSBY in their own game considerably ahead of the fleet counting single digit points. Holding at third is Diego ROMERO (ARG), who placed 8 and 17, and continues a strong run of form.
|Tom SLINGSBY fought
back in the Laser today
Andreas GERITZER (AUT) was 'reasonably satisfied' with today's results of 17 and 5, which see him closing in on the top ten places to secure a place through to the final Medal Race on Saturday. 'I am happy with 11 overall, but wish I could delete the OCS in race two,' he commented as he came ashore.
Over in the Laser Radial, the results are a lot closer, with the top five within nine points of each other. Sophie DE TURCKHEIM placed her second top five result in today's race four and has shifted up into second overall, but it is Paige RAILEY (USA) who continues to lead the charge at the front of the 36 boat gold fleet.
RAILEY found herself in unfamiliar territory in both races four and five, buried deep in the fleet, but her points lead from yesterday provided the buffer to remain in first overall. These two are frequently head to head at the front of fleets, but it is RAILEY who holds the greater percentage of wins over DE TURCKHEIM. As the reigning Laser Radial World Champion and world number one in the rankings, RAILEY is of course the favourite on Lake Neusiedl. Pressure does not seem to phase RAILEY whose approach is to 'just sail the race and not think about others expectations.'
Sailing safe today with a 9 and 22, Sarah BLANCK (AUS) retains a hold on her overnight position of third overall.
Tomorrow's final races for the gold fleet offers many sailors a chance to make the top ten cut through to the final Medal Race on Saturday. Whilst the five sailors overall are virtually assured of being on the start line on Saturday, the remaining five slots are still open for the taking.
|The BONNAUD brothers
© Guilain GRENIER
The 470s managed to squeeze in three gold fleet races today, in a southeast wind of five to nine knots. The shifty conditions meant it was a day of high scoring, with few of the top teams avoiding at least one double digit score. World Champions Nathan WILMOT and Malcolm PAGE (AUS) scored 12,7,3 to move from third to first overall, four points ahead of Sven COSTER and Kalle COSTER (NED). The most consistent performers of the day were the French team of Benjamin BONNAUD and Romain BONNAUD (FRA) and Japan's Olympic bronze medallist Kazuto SEKI with crew Shoichi YANAGAWA. Scores of 4,6,7 and 9,4,4 see the teams move up to third and sixth place respectively. The American team of Mikee ANDERSON-MITTERLING and David HUGHES move into the top ten following a superb starboard start in the day's final race which helped them to second place.
After a disappointing first race, Ingrid PETITJEAN and Nadege DOUROUX (FRA) were back to their normal consistent selves in the Women's 470 races. An 18,3,8 day sees them keep the top spot in the leaderboard, although they now lie just a point ahead of their Aussie rivals. After winning the qualifying series last week Elise RECHICHI and Tessa PARKINSON (AUS) are beginning to get a real handle on the shifty conditions on Lake Neusiedl. A sixth, a bullet and a third today lift them up to second overall, whilst the Ukrainian pairing of Ruslana TARAN and Olena PAKHOLCHYK also found their form today to score 1,4,5 and move within five points of the top spot. The day's final bullet went to Vlada ILJIENKO and Natalia GAPONOVICH (RUS) who move up to seventh overall with an impressive start-finish win.
The 49ers gold fleet completed three races today in champagne sailing conditions. The first race got underway after a slight delay with all boats getting away cleanly except Alaxandre MONTEAU and Damien GUILLOU (FRA) who were penalised for sculling on the start line.
Most of the fleet opted for the right hand side of the course and the fleet piled into the first mark in a tight pack. Leading the way were Emmanuel DYEN and Yann ROCHERIEUX (FRA) ahead of the Italian SIBELLO brothers and overnight leaders Iker MARTINEZ and Xabier FERNANDEZ (ESP). Gybing at the mark the pack shot off to the left of the course whilst the French leaders headed down the right to the gate.
DYEN and ROCHERIUX held their position at the front of the fleet throughout the race working the shifts back up the right hand side of the course and extending their lead. The second time the leaders came to the gate, the SIBELLO's were still in second place but MARTINEZ and FERNANDEZ had lost ground on the leaders and by the final windward mark had slipped down to fourth. Rodion LUKA and Georgiy LEONCHUK (UKR) moved up into third and this order remained the same until the finish.
DYEN and ROCHERIUX were delighted with their first race today: 'We were really pleased with the first race but the others were not so good. We hope that we have moved up the fleet after today.' And that they have, going into the day in twelfth place overall, they are now in ninth and ahead of the other French team. 'We were disappointed that we did not do a fourth race. The forecast for tommorrow is for 25 knots and that is not good for the 49ers.' they continued.
The fleet was well spread along the line for the start of the second race with MARTINEZ and FERNANDEZ starting closest to the pin end. LUKA and LEONCHUK piled up at the committee boat end with the French and Italians. The Italian's were squeezed out and forced to tack away and come back to start. As the fleet worked their way up wind, MARTINEZ and FERNANDEZ took their customary safe line, working the shifts up the centre of the course to reach the first mark at the head of the fleet.
Jorge LIMA and Francisco ANDRADE (POR) rounded second with Marcin CZAJLOWSKI and Krzysztof KIERKOWSKI (POL) in third. The SIBELLO's showed their class once again, despite their bad start they worked their way through the fleet to round the first mark in ninth place. It was not good news for the Irish MCGOVERN brothers who received the news from the race committee that they were OCS.
MARTINEZ and FERNANDEZ did not let go of their lead through the rest of the race and took their fourth bullet of the championship. Coming home second were LIMA and ANDRADE with LUKA and LEONCHUK taking third.
The Polish team could not maintain their form and finished the race in eighth place, race three began even more badly for them when they capsized on the start line and never recovered. The SIBELLO's rounded the top mark first ahead of MARTINEZ and FERNANDEZ and DYEN and ROCHERIUX in second and third. Positions changed throughout the race.
|CZE1 go through to the quarter finals
USA4 had their place in the quarter finals sewn up fairly early in the day, and apart from losing to the French were seemingly unbeatable. With just three matches left to sail, USA4 had notched up seven wins which they increased to eight after a noisy encounter with ITA1. Their next match was against CZE1 who finished sixth in qualification but had put in strong performances in the silver fleet stage. Despite both the USA boats being over the line at the start, CZE1 was not able to consolidate their position and found themselves one-four at the first mark. USA4 did not give much else away and took the victory but in a match that was 'too close to comfort'.
By late afternoon each team had just one match left to sail and for three teams it would be the decider. CZE1 had seven wins with FRA1 and ITA1 both with six wins. CZE1 would square up against ITA1 and if they beat them, they were guaranteed a place in the quarter final. Before them, FRA had their last hope of qualifying, if they beat USA1 they still had a chance of going through if ITA1 beat CZE1.
FRA1 had maintained a three win record over USA4 so far so for USA4 there was a point to prove. As expected there was plenty of pre-start action and with USA4 penalised just before the gun went, FRA led into the top mark and were in a winning one-two position by the second mark. They went on to win comfortably and bring their total number of wins to seven.
It was now all about whether ITA could beat CZE1. Both teams were hyped up for this crucial race and the fiery Italians were penalised three times before the start. CZE1 won the start but although ITA tried to put up a fight through the rest of the race they could not gain the advantage on the Czech team. Acknowledging their victory and that their chance of making the quarter finals was over, the Italian's applauded their opponents as they cruised across the finish line. CZE1 progress to the next stage with eight wins, just one less than USA4.
Delighted with their success the team were congratulated by USA4 as they came ashore. 'We are really happy' they said 'we were not confident about going through [to the quarter-finals] as we do not practise very much, we practised for just two days before coming here so we are really really happy.' Asked what they thought about their last match they said 'it was noisy, it is always that way!'. Tonight will be a night of celebration, the Czechs are staying with USA4 so both teams have something to celebrate as they will sail in the quarter finals tomorrow.
The second round robin for the gold fleet was cancelled as there was not enough time to complete it. USA3 finished first, with USA1 second, GBR3 third, USA2 fourth , GBR1 fifth and AUS sixth.
Racing continues on Lake Neusiedl tomorrow, with the first starts at 1100 local time (0900 UTC).
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